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Bacteria in mouth appear to signify ethnic groups in university study

Researchers have determined that bacteria in the human mouth tend to congregate within certain groups and can indicate a person’s ethnicity.

In a study of 100 people belonging to four different ethnic affiliations, no two individual’s bacteria were alike but colonies of certain bacteria were present per ethnic groups studied.

This finding is as powerful an indicator as a fingerprint in establishing an individual’s identity, said Dr. Purnima Kumar, associate professor of periodontology at The Ohio State University, and senior author of The OSU study, and it is a distinction that also helps determine an individual’s ethnicity.

Scientists identified nearly 400 different species of microbes, particularly those nestled under the gums, in the mouths of the non-Hispanic black, white, Chinese and Latino study participants. Just 2 percent of bacterial species were found in every participant, though in different concentrations per ethnic affiliation. Eight percent of bacterial species were found in 90 percent of the participants. Otherwise, researchers determined that shared microbial communities existed in each ethnic group.

Researchers anticipate that the findings could help explain the reasons gum disease is more likely to occur in some ethnic groups, especially African Americans and Latinos. The research also could help personalize dental treatments to individuals.

Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on teeth. The American Dental Association has information for consumers about oral health topics, including gum disease, on its MouthHealthy.org website.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

12/11/2013

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